Whether it's tradition, superstition or just repetition, some players will go to absurd lengths to secure a jersey number. Others are willing to part with their digits like game-worn jockstraps. Some players are indifferent to it all.Then there's Giants punter Jeff Feagles. The 44-year-old veteran, who has never missed a game in his 23 years in the NFL, has made a small business out of forfeiting his jersey numerals.
Feagles admits he's never been too attached to his number. He'd worn No. 10 for as long as he could remember, but didn't mind handing it over to a rookie when the Giants drafted Eli Manning in 2004.
As is customary in the NFL, Manning compensated Feagles for the numeral -- but not with a load of cash. Instead, the rookie sent the veteran and his family on a week-long, all-expenses-paid vacation to Florida.
After giving Manning his number, Feagles was headed into his 17th season in the league. Thus, he decided to switch to No. 17 as a tribute. But a year later another new teammate came knocking for his number. This time it was Plaxico Burress, who had signed with the Giants on March 17 and thought it would be fitting for him to wear No. 17 for his new team.
"I said, 'you know what, why don't we do the same deal that I did with Eli,'" Feagles said. "Except I'm kind of re-doing my outdoor kitchen, so I basically told him if he could pay for it we'd be good."
Goodbye Florida, hello Kenmore.
Instead of striking the deal himself with Feagles, Burress unleashed his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to negotiate the exchange.
With Burress wearing No. 17, Feagles was numberless once again. In search of his third number in three years, he went with No. 18, this time in honor of his 18th season in the league.
Three years later, Burress is no longer a Giant and Feagles ended up financing his own kitchen. Feagles told SI.com recently that Burress (who was released by the Giants in 2009) stiffed him.
"I never got paid for it," Feagles said. "I asked [Burress] for it. Every time I went to Drew he said, 'That's between you and Plax.' Bottom line, I never got paid. He basically stole my number."
Multiple phone calls and e-mails placed to Rosenhaus seeking comment were not returned.
The Giants organization asked Feagles this spring if he'd like his old number back. "I basically re-possessed it," Feagles joked. "I told the team, 'Listen, I've got to restore the image, its obviously been tarnished.' I told them it'd be fine."
Despite being burned by Burress, Feagles said he's still not overly sentimental about his number and is open for negotiations if one of his teammates covets number 17.
"The door is wide open," he said.